I grew up in Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons and attended the University of Idaho. After graduating with a degree in mathematics, I moved to Southern California to begin a career in computers. Years later I finally came to my senses and answered my soul’s call to quit the 9-to-5 world to do what I had always dreamed of doing: writing the kind of sprawling historical novels I loved to read.
It was during the research phase for my second novel about the California missions that I fell in love with basketry and set out to explore its various flavors. Once I tried coiling with pine needles, I was hooked. Between the engaging aroma and silky feel of the needles and the soothing repetition of sewing the coils together, I found the perfect way to reground after a day of fiction writing.
Boredom with creating “traditional” basket shapes soon led me to experiment with allowing the needles and thread to take the lead. That, in turn, led me into sculptural basketry and from there into the world of fiber sculpture.
In 2001 my husband Jerry and I moved to the Southern California mountain art mecca of Idyllwild where I began a two-year stint working in the best of the local galleries. Seeing the art and artists from the business side gave me a whole new perspective on my work and life as an artist. It was in Idyllwild that I experienced my first solo exhibition and first “Best of Show” award as well as the publication of my first two novels: Mission (the book that led me to basketry) in 2002 and Shining Mountains, Western Sea in 2003.
In 2004 we moved again, this time to the Missouri Ozarks where we built our dream house (most of it with our own hands) and started a cattle ranch.
Unexpectedly, the move whetted my appetite for exploring different sculptural forms and pursuing new opportunities for showing my art. It didn’t take long before I came to the realization that I could do art or do writing but not both. So I chose art.
Over the span of my art career, my sculptures have shown in hundreds of exhibitions large and small from California to North Carolina, Chicago to Texas, winning awards and gathering a following among art collectors, corporations and museums nationwide.
To me, such recognition is just the icing. The “cake” is living a life filled with creativity, passion and joy, doing what speaks to my soul.
I am an artist by accident. With a degree in mathematics from the University of Idaho, I headed off to make my fortune (and pay off my college debts) in the computer industry.
But, after too many years in corporate cubicle land, I came to my senses and decided it was time to follow a long-held dream of becoming a rich and famous author of historical novels. That dream turned out to be a whole lot more difficult than I ever imagined. Still, though wealth and fame never materialized, writing turned out to be the stepping-stone to my current life as a professional fiber sculptor.
The path to this life started while doing research for a book about the founding of the first California mission. In order to gain insight into the Native American woman heroine of the book, I took a class in making the traditional baskets of her people. That class turned out to be a revelation and a turning point. I walked out with a finished product, ugly and misshapen though it was. To have a finished product after a few hours stood in stark contrast to the months and years my fiction was taking.
I also found the process of making that basket deeply satisfying; so satisfying that I ended up taking classes in other basket-making techniques until one grabbed me: coiling with pine needles. Between the heady aroma of the needles, their silky feel, the way my mind quieted while working with them, I was hooked.
Thereafter, my daily routine became: researching and writing during the day and basket-making in the evening. After a string of frustrating writing sessions, I sat down with the needles one evening too out of sorts to have the energy to bend the needles into a preconceived shape. Instead I let the materials go where they would. They led. I followed. And the process for the kind of abstract fiber sculptures I’ve been making and honing ever since was born.
Hundreds of sculptures and over 400 exhibitions across the US later, the materials and the process of creating with them still entrance me. Not knowing what is going to result when I start a new piece is the prod that keeps me inspired and trying new things. I draw inspiration from the natural surroundings of the Missouri Ozarks where I live and from the worlds of literature, music, mythology and mysticism. Working with natural materials also serves as a constant reminder of the bounty and blessings of this big blue ball we all call home.
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